Un-Digi: Couponing 101 Without The Junk{food}

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We’ve had some requests to do an un-digi post on the basics of couponing. When I got this request, I immediately thought of Kelleigh Ratzlaff. If you follow her blog or twitter feeds at all, you know she knows her coupons! She was nice enough to write this post this week and helped disprove MY preconceived notions about coupons! Enjoy!

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September 2009 was a big month for me. I finally figured out how to manage my budget, I started using the cash envelope system, and I discovered couponing. Up until that time, my husband and I always felt like we were living paycheck to paycheck, and if you have ever lived that way, you know how stressful it can be. We used our credit card for all store purchases, gas, and restaurants, however we paid it off every month and never carried a credit card balance. We figured that we were building up rewards, so it was better this way. We both made wise financial decisions, yet at the end of the month when we paid the credit card bill, we just felt like we didn’t have any money left! We realized that something needed to change, so we set up a workable budget and froze our credit cards.

Around this same time, I was scrapbooking with my friends, and the grocery budget topic came up. I felt pretty good about my rather frugal budget, so I blurted it out. They went around the table and shared their budgets for their small families and they put me to shame! I asked one gal how she was able to do that, and she responded, “I use coupons!”

I told my friend, “But all the coupons out there are for junk or for brands that I don’t buy. Besides, it’s not worth it to me to cut coupons to save .30¢.” She set me straight, and I’m so glad she did.

My friend Angela, from the coupon blog Frugal Living NW says, “The goal of couponing is to get the name brand item for cheaper than generic.” I just love that! It is SO true, too!

In November, I heard about a great sale at Walmart on Campbells Cream of Mushroom and Chicken soups, PLUS there was a great coupon available online, which I was able to print. I headed on over to my local Walmart, and stood there in the isle right next to another woman who was looking at the cream soups, too. She reached for the generic brand, which was on the shelf right next to the Campbells brand . . . even though it was 20¢ more than the Campbells sale price! I ended up buying 8 cans of Campbells Cream of Chicken and Cream of Mushroom soup for 25¢ a can. The other lady paid 70¢ for her single can of generic soup.

It’s time to change your mindset about coupons.

Here are some common coupon myths:

It’s cheaper to just buy the generic brand. Fact:Generic is not always the cheapest option. Remember the goal?

It’s not worth it to cut a coupon for .30¢ off. I’ll only save 30¢! Fact: Coupon ladies cut the coupon whether they think they will use it or not, then wait for a great sale, THEN you use the manufacturers coupon and a store coupon (at the same time on the same product) to stock up on something at rock bottom prices. It gets even better if your store doubles!!

Coupons are only for processed food. Fact: Do you buy yogurt, condiments, soup, rice, flour, pasta, cereal, canned vegetables like corn, green beans, and tomatoes, cheese, tortillas, frozen fruit and vegetables, meat and more? Then, you buy processed food. Let’s get over that argument, okay?

All the coupons I see are for junk food. Fact: At first glance, it may seem that way, but once you start digging a little deeper, you will find that there are coupons available for vegetables, yogurt, milk, eggs, rice, beans, organic food, and even fresh veggies! (see Does Couponing Only Work if You Eat Junk Food? @ Money Saving Mom for more information).

If you are still skeptical, let’s throw the whole “food” thing out the window. If you simply started using coupons for your household items like toilet paper, toothpaste, razors, deodorant, cleaners, etc. you would significantly cut your budget down so that you can splurge on items that are important to you.

On a personal note, my “splurge” item is household cleaners. I prefer to use non-toxic cleaners in my home rather than store-bought chemicals. I could get my household cleaners for virtually free using coupons, as many couponers do, however this is an area that is important to me. Maybe your splurge area is buying organic or gluten free. Perhaps you are a toilet paper snob (as I am!) or maybe you like to buy shade grown coffee. By couponing and saving on items you regularly buy, you can afford to splurge on these items.

Cutting coupons takes too much time. Fact: Yes, it can, if you find out that you love couponing and you go a little crazy with it. (It is terribly addictive!) However, it doesn’t have to take you any more than 20 minutes on a Sunday afternoon to gather your coupons and cut them out. For more information, visit these resources:

Getting Organized @ The Krazy Coupon Lady

Are coupons worth it? @ Balancing Beauty and Bedlam

Figuring out the deals takes too much time. Fact: YOU DON’T HAVE TO DO IT! There are many, many “frugal” bloggers who love gathering the deals and post them on their blogs! (Oh, how I appreciate these ladies!) They will scour the grocery store ads, find the best deals, find the coupons to match up with those deals listed in the ads (called a match-up), link you up to printable coupons so you can just click and print, and even do the math for you! They come up with “scenarios” to help you get the things you need at rock bottom prices.

Here is a list of my favorite coupon blogs:

Money Saving Mom – My favorite national coupon blog. It is full of inspiring articles about frugal living and has all of the grocery store match ups.

The Krazy Coupon Lady – These gals taught me everything I know about couponing in their 10 Days to Become a KCL series. I highly recommend it! Great match-ups, too!

Hip 2 Save – This gal is all about the freebies! She has some coupon match-ups, but LOTS of links to great deals and free items.

And, my favorite local coupon match-up blog is Frugal Living NW. I believe it is very important to find a local coupon blog so that you can see what others in your area are saying about the stores YOU shop at. Read the comments to find out what deals are working for people, and what deals are not. Find out where the nice cashiers are and which store is out of a certain item. Ask your frugal friends about their favorite coupon blogs, or check out the Nationwide Grocery Guide @ The Krazy Coupon Lady or The Frugal Map.

We have only touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to couponing, so I encourage you to check out the 10 Days to Become a KCL series.

As for me: I discovered that when I have money leftover in my grocery envelope, I will spend it. As a result, I decided to cut my family of four’s grocery budget down from $400 a month to $200 a month (a good starting point for a grocery/household item budget is about $100 per adult – or child who eats like an adult- per MONTH, $75 per child, and $50 plus the cost of formula for babies. Obviously you will have to adjust this amount if you are dealing with food allergies, etc., however this is a widely accepted guideline…) I typically shop my pantry rather than the store, and I have a list of the things I will never pay for again or won’t pay more than .25¢ for:

  • disposable razors (free)
  • toothbrushes (free)
  • shampoo, conditioner and styling aids (free – although sometimes I rotate with stuff I paid money for)
  • boxed cereal (my spending limit is .75¢ – and that’s for Kashi – although I have gotten that for free, too! LOL!!)
  • granola bars – Nature Valley (and the nut clusters)
  • Hunts tomato sauce
  • cake mix, brownie mix, cookie mix, frosting (free)
  • Nabisco crackers (Wheat Thins/Triscuts, etc)
  • Progresso Soup (which I never bought before couponing, but now get for free)
  • Pancake mix
  • canned green beans
  • canned corn
  • frozen veggies (green beans, peas, mixes, etc)
  • yogurt (free)
  • a whole lot more!!

Intrigued? I guess it’s time to get Krazy!

HeartKelleigh

P.S. We had 6 participants in the “From the Files Challenge” who all created wonderful pages. So we decided to give a $10 gift card from one of our contributing designers this month to EACH one of them! Congrats to all who participated! Check your email in boxes 🙂 and if you didn’t get an email from me (Katie) please send me one at katie@thedailydigi.com since 2 of them bounced back to me as spam.